As tubeless tire technology has continued to grow and improve, two high-end contenders have emerged in the cyclocross market - the HTLR line from Challenge (handmade tubeless-ready) and Donnelly's WC (World Cup) series. Both are designed to be a viable tubeless alternative to tubular cyclocross tires for serious pro and amateur racing.
Let's put these two cyclocross tire lines head-to-head and see how they stack up.
Challenge HTLR vs. Donnelly World Cup cyclocross tires - what they have in common
These two tire lines share some key similarities.
- They're both high-end, performance oriented options for enthusiast racers.
- Both are tubeless-compatible for use with tire sealant on modern tubeless-ready rims.
- And they're both designed to meet the 33mm limit on tire width, a potential concern for riders who compete at the national championship, or at the UCI level.
Tread patterns - how the Challenge HTLR line and Donnelly WC line differ
As of this writing, the high-end World Cup design exists on only a singular Donnelly tire, the PDX WC. Donnelly's remaining tire tread designs, like the MXP, BOS, and LAS, exist in a traditional tubeless version, but not the high-end WC. Donnelly had initially announced plans for an MXP and LAS version of the World Cup as well, but they haven't made it to market yet.
The edge in the tread choice metric goes to Challenge, who have released the HTLR version across more (although not all) of their tire line, with Grifo, Limus, Baby Limus, and Chicane now available with the HTLR casing. There's no HTLR version of the special use case Dune or Koksijde treads yet.
More tread choices allow riders to setup multiple wheelsets, or change their tubeless tires to suit the day's conditions - so Challenge wins this round.
Claimed weights from the manufacturer:
- Donnelly PDX WC - 366 grams
- Challenge Grifo HTLR - 380 grams
- Challenge Baby Limus HTLR - 395 grams
- Challenge Limus HTLR - 405 grams
- Challenge Chicane HTLR - 395 grams
I'd personally prioritize choosing the right tread shape to suit the race course conditions over weight, however, there is no denying that for gram-shavers, the Donnelly PDX WC is significantly lighter.
The Donnelly World Cup PDX uses a 240 TPI casing, while the Challenge HTLR line uses a 300 TPI SuperPoly casing. Both are significantly higher than the thread count used on the casing of a "common" standard vulcanized rubber tubeless tire.
Perhaps in a nod to the classic traditional "look" of cyclocross tubular tires with black tread and brown sidewalls, both Donnelly and Challenge have elected to produce their high-end tubeless offerings with a similar tan sidewall, making them instantly recognizable on the race course. If you own multiple sets of wheels and use the traditional "vulcanized" tubeless ready (non HTLR, non WC) tires from these brands, the tan sidewall makes them easy to tell apart in the garage or pit.
Tire width limits
Both the Donnelly World Cup and Challenge HTLR cyclocross tire lines are designed to be compliant with the 33mm tire width maximum rule in place at UCI events and in some national championship categories. In these events, officials use a tire width guage prior to the start to check that rider's tires are compliant.
Donnelly's PDX WC measures in at 8-10mm narrower than the brand's non-WC PDX and MXP tires when mounted on the same test rim to ensure compliance with the 33mm rule.
On the Challenge side, they tout that the HTLR tires will meet the 33mm rule when mounted to tubeless rims featuring an internal width of up to 23mm. That includes most of what's on the market, but may rule out some super-extra-wide rim options. Something to consider as you shop for wheels.
Hookless rim compatibility
Challenge specifically claims that their handmade, tubeless-ready line works with modern "hookless" rims. I couldn't find a compatibility statement for the Donnelly PDX WC.
This could be a concern if you're in the small minority of riders experimenting with hookless rims. If you don't know what this means, yours are probably the hook type.
The overwhelming majority of bicycle tires are made in Asia, with only a few high-end options manufactured in Europe. The Challenge HTLR line-up appears to be manufactured in Thailand, while Donnelly specifically notes that they've used European manufacturing for the PDX WC.
It's not a secret that COVID-19 has wrecked supply chains. While the situation has improved, availability of bicycle components is still not what it once was. As of this writing, the Challenge HTLR line has much better availiability compared to the Donnelly PDX World Cup, which has been quite scarce and hard to get since introduction.
Both the Donnelly WC World Cup and Challenge HTLR handmade tubeless-ready cyclocross tires are excellent choices and won't let you down. Enthusiast racers looking for a tubeless alternative to gluing/taping tubular tires would be well served with either.
As of this writing, Challenge has the edge in this market due to the existing of more tread choices to suit various weather and terrain, and better availability. As that changes in the future, I'll keep you posted.